It was not very dark. The sky was thick with clouds, but there was a waning moon behind them. The only light in the garrison was in the grated windows of the guard-house.
He did not even hint that he knew of the isolation of their lives, but Cairness was fully aware that he must, and that it was what he meant now. "You ought to go to another country. Not back to Australia, either; it is too much this sort, but somewhere where the very air is civilizing, where it's in the atmosphere and you can't get away from it. I'll tell you what you do." He stood up and knocked the ashes from his pipe against the porch rail. "You've plenty of friends at home. Sell the ranch, or keep it to come back to once in a way if you like. I'm going back in the autumn, in October. You come with me, you and Mrs. Cairness and the boy.""Now," said Taylor, distinctly, "oblige me with another lemon pop, mister." A cheer went up, and the minister standing above his fallen enemy raised the[Pg 45] third glass. "Here's to your better judgment next time, my friend. 'Tain't the sombrero makes the shot," he said. His seamed, small face was pale underneath its leathery skin, but by not so much as a quiver of an eyelid did he give any further sign of pain.The chances of detection would certainly be less if he should go back of the officers' quarters, instead of the barracks. But to do that he would have to cross the road which led from the trader's to the quadrangle, and he would surely meet some one, if it were only some servant girl and her lover. He had observed and learned some things in his week of waiting in the post鈥攖hat week which otherwise had gone for worse than nothing. He took the back of the barracks, keeping well away from them, stumbling in and out among rubbish heaps. He had no very clear idea of what he meant to do, or of why he was going in this particular direction; but he was ready for anything that might offer to his hand. If he came upon Landor or the adjutant or any of them, he would put a knife into him. But he was not going to the trouble of hunting[Pg 206] them out. And so he walked on, and came to the haystacks, looming, denser shadows against the sky.
In the period of madness, more or less enduring, of the victim of the Great Powers' policy, somebody who is innocent usually suffers. Sometimes the Powers know it, oftener they do not. Either way it does not worry them. They set about doing their best to destroy, and that is their whole duty."That's the straight bill. Ask him. He isn't fit to be spoken to."Chapter 14
They glanced sideways at the big Englishman, who appeared to be one of themselves, and at the little minister. On him, more especially on his hat, their eyes rested threateningly. They had heard of him before, most of them. They answered his genial greeting surlily, but he was quite unruffled. He beamed upon the room as he seated himself at one of the tables and ordered supper, for which, in obedience to a dirty sign upon the wall, he paid in advance."Thanks. But you started out to tell me what Lawton told Stone."Then he delivered his ultimatum, slowly, watching the unhappy savage narrowly from under the visor of his pith helmet. "You must make up your mind whether you will stay out on the war-path or surrender鈥攚ithout conditions. If you stay out, I'll keep after you and kill the last one, if it takes fifty years. I have never lied to you," he stood up and waved his hand; "I have said all I have to say. You had better think it over to-night and let me know in the morning."
But this the civilians were very plainly not minded to do. They dropped back, now to cinch up, now to take a drink from the flasks, now to argue, once for one of their number to recover from an attack of heart disease.Felipa Cabot proved to be a lithe creature, who rode beside the ambulance with the officers, and who, in spite of the dust and tan and traces of a hard march, was beautiful. In the reaction of the moment Landor thought her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. But she froze the consequent warmth of his greeting with a certain indefinable stolidity, and she eyed him with an unabashed intention of determining whether he were satisfactory or not, which changed his position to that of the one upon approbation. If she had been less handsome, it would have been repellent.
The little man picked it up and contemplated it, with his head on one side and a critical glance at its damaged condition. Then he smoothed its roughness with the palm of his rougher hand. "Why do I wear it?" he drawled calmly; "well, I reckon to show 'em that I can."
"Why did you do it?"
"Is that Captain Landor's camp?"She was broken to the acceptance of the inevitable now,鈥攈e could see that, any one could see it. She had learned the lesson of the ages鈥攖he futility of struggle of mere man against the advance of men. That it had been a hard lesson was plain. It showed in her face, where patience had given place to unrest, gentleness to the defiance of freedom. She had gained, too, she had gained greatly. She was not only woman now, she was womanly. But Cairness did not need to be told that she was not happy.
"You remember that woman," Cairness went on, making and rolling adroitly a straw-paper cigarette, "the one who was cook on the ranch for so long? She could tell us what it is, and I'll bet on it."[Pg 251]详情
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